“Cosmology” was one of the more useful words I learned in my college religion classes to describe (according to Merriam-Webster) “the branch of metaphysics dealing with the origin and structure of the universe.” It’s probably safe to say that as soon as we reached Homo sapiens status, we’ve been trying to understand and explain the world we live in, and what a lot of stories there are to do this.
In the May 15 issue, we reviewed a book called Gods and Heroes: Mythology Around the World, written and illustrated by Korwin Briggs. It’s a substantial work, branching out from the usual suspects of the Egyptian, Greek, Norse, and Roman pantheons to encompass other world cosmologies. Thus readers learn about the labors of Heracles, how Loki became a mother, how Durga was born, how Raven stole the sun, how Moses parted the Red Sea, how Jesus healed the leper, how Gabriel appeared to Muhammad, and—
Wait. Nope. Scratch those last three, as although the book includes figures and stories from such living faiths as Hinduism, Shinto, and Indigenous traditions around the world, it does not include the Abrahamic faiths. This, as our review says, sets up a “cosmological double standard,” placing the belief systems of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in a separate conceptual bucket from mythology.
Nowhere does Briggs explain why he excludes these stories, and it’s interesting to note that Buddhism is likewise absent. But it’s not like he’s the only one who makes this implicit distinction: The collection of mythology that included Jesus would be a radical one indeed here in the West. But since the children who use America’s libraries come from faiths from all over—and from right here—it behooves us to bestow equal respect on all belief systems. Your mythology might be my religion, after all, and vice versa.
It’s all cosmology to me. Vicky Smith is the children’s editor.